Saturday, April 23, 2011

Websites - When to Seek Help When to Go It Alone

There are a myriad of misconceptions about the Internet and web development. Two of the most common are… it’s really easy, the other is… it’s really hard. The reality is most could figure out how to put together a simple web site. There is a variety of online resources for one to learn how to create, promote and utilize a website.

However, this doesn’t mean going it alone is always a good choice. I often explain web development by saying, ‘it’s not that it’s hard, it’s that there is a lot.’ What I mean by this is that there is a huge amount of information about web development and much of the information changes/adapts in time, as the web itself is still developing rapidly. If one has a specific interest in learning about the internet, and has time and patience there’s no reason why one couldn’t learn how to do their own website(s).

However there’s usually more to consider than – ‘am I capable of building a website?’ Once you build your site will anyone ever visit it, or will the web site be a good reflection of the person or company that put it together? ‘If you build it they will come’ is probably the biggest website myth. Here are some of the important questions to ask when building a website.

What is the purpose of my site?
Who will visit my website?
How will they find it?
Will they come back?
Do I want to communicate with my website visitors?
Will I use social networks to communicate with visitors?
Do I plan on selling products or scheduling services through my website?
If yes, how will I make the order process secure?
What forms of payment will I accept online?
Do I want active content such as a blog or a news feed included on my site?
Will I be creating new content, and will there be time to keep the site current?

These aren’t the only questions to think about, but it’s a good place to start. When asking yourself if you need help, here are a few guidelines from a do-it-yourselfer’s perspective…

E-commerce sites… In All Probability Yes.
- If you are planning to set up a store with a focus on sales, and you’re new to e-commerce, you may be able to set up your own store, but that doesn’t mean anyone will be able to find it or be willing to buy from it. The skills needed are learnable, but it will take a significant amount of time to start an effective e-commerce site from scratch without prior experience. A professional knows what you need, and knows how things work. Unless your primary objective is to become a web developer, get professional help. -One exception is if you’re planning to use a site like Ebay for e-commerce that is developed specifically for individual use.

Business sites… Depends
- Business sites range greatly in function. Small businesses may be able to do their own site, particularly if there is limited information to post. However, don’t be sloppy or having a site will be counterproductive. If your site or company graphics are sub par, this is a good indication that professional help is wise. You may only need minor work done. Also it’s wise seek out a professional is when adding functional elements to your site. Online scheduling services, the ability to buy/pay through your site, and content management features need to work properly to add value to your pages. While there are exceptions, in most cases it will not be cost effective for a company to teach itself how put together this type of site.

Personal Sites… May be able to go it alone
- There are several different types of personal sites - hobby sites, artist/artisan sites/activist sites, etc. These sites often have a limited budget, and a specific purpose. Individuals’ sites often are not held to as high a standard as a business site. However, be aware that if one’s site looks particularly bad or sloppy, this won’t reflect well on you or your mission. The audience for these sites may be more fixed, and promotional help may be less of an issue. For individuals a free blog, like those available through WordPress or Blogger may be a perfect fit, whereas that would rarely be a good choice for a business site. There may be cases, such a setting up e-commerce capabilities for ones site that either some direction or help would be very valuable, but creating and maintaining a solid website is not beyond most individuals’ reach.


Michelle C. said...

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